Your rooftop HVAC system can be difficult to keep clean, but ignoring proper maintenance and care can end up costing you a lot of money. One of the main culprits is your condenser coils. Not only do they play a big role in the cooling process, but their coils can quickly become fouled, and that can lead to a number of serious problems. Unfortunately, frequent coil cleaning can be a pain. Fortunately, there’s a way to get around it.
What Exactly Do Condenser Coils Do?
Your condenser coils’ main functions are to condense refrigerant vapor to liquid. As we reported in an earlier blog article (“The Hidden Cost of a Dirty Condenser Coil”), condenser coils work in conjunction with your evaporator coils. The evaporator coil picks up the heat, and the condenser coil releases that heat outside. By eliminating hot air, the temperature inside a building is lowered.
In order for the condenser coils to perform well, with optimal energy efficiency, they need to be kept clean. Even a small build-up of contaminants will decrease the available surface area for condenser coil heat transfer, which significantly mars performance. As we mentioned in a previous article (“The High Cost of Dirty Refrigeration Coils”) an EPA study showed that as little as 0.042″ of dirt on condensing coils will cause a 21% drop in efficiency. Plus, that small amount of dirt buildup can increase refrigeration energy use by as much 35%.
But keeping coils entirely dirt-free is not an easy thing to do. That’s because condenser coils are located outside where they are constantly exposed to the dirt, bugs, debris, pollen, garbage and whatever else blows around your rooftop. Cottonwood seeds, in particular, are a menace to HVAC units (we’ve written a lot about the problem of cottonwood seeds impairing HVAC units, such as in our recent article “The Importance of Cottonwood Screens”).
But even if cottonwood isn’t the biggest concern in your location, dirt will naturally build up over time, no matter where you are. And it will only get dirtier and dirtier the longer you ignore coil cleaning. That’s why ACHR News Magazine says, “Dirty condenser coils are one of the most frequent service problems in the commercial refrigeration and air conditioning fields today.”
A dirty condenser coil means—
- You can’t cool the building properly. Dirt acts as a barrier between the air that’s blowing over the coils and the heat inside them. As a result, your HVAC system will take much longer to cool the building (if it even can cool the building).
- Your energy bills will rise. Because your HVAC system has to work overtime to cool the interior, it uses a lot more energy, causing utility bills to soar.
- Your HVAC system will break down. The harder your HVAC system needs to work, the more it will need repairs. Repairs can easily run in the thousands of dollars, per unit. Depending on how many units you have on your rooftop, those costs can quickly become exorbitant.
- Your system will need to be replaced. The lifespan of your HVAC equipment will suffer, and each unit can cost tens of thousands of dollars to replace. Costs of replacement will also rise in locations where it is more difficult to install or remove units (such as this retailer that had to use helicopters to fly in its HVAC units. This is not as rare as you’d think.) Remember: rooftops are not easy to get to!
According to a paper published by the government of Australia, dirty coils can also lead to “catastrophic compressor failure. Likewise, with water-based systems with decreased coil performance chillers, boilers and pumps all have to work harder. In addition, biological growth on coils can lead to fin corrosion that over time will significantly reduce the coils’ performance to a point when they will need to be replaced.” In other words, dirty coils cause a lot more problems than you can imagine.
How to Protect Your HVAC System and Reduce Coil Cleaning
While regular HVAC and coil cleaning is important, it can be expensive. You may want to get your own employees to do the work to reduce costs, but unless they are fully trained HVAC professionals, they might not do the job right, and might even make things worse. Plus, coil cleaning can take them hours, and that assumes your team has access to gallons of water (on the roof?!), the right chemicals, etc.
One relatively inexpensive option to HVAC cleaning, and a long-lasting one, is to install an air intake filter such as our powerful PreVent® System Filter Screens. While PreVent screens won’t completely remove the need for HVAC and coil cleanings, they greatly reduce their frequency. Filter screens provide an outer layer of protection that stops debris from entering the system in the first place. Our PreVent screens are particularly well-suited for the job because they are custom made to fit any HVAC system, and they are attached with powerful MagnaMount® earth magnets which require no special tools or training—they can be installed quickly and easily with zero downtime. When they are dirty they are merely brushed off in place. Or, they can be easily removed and hosed down in minutes. They are made in the USA, come with a 5-year warranty, and the screen quality is the best in the industry.
Avoid the challenge of frequent coil cleaning, and keep your HVAC system running smoothly. The quick ROI of the PreVent System Filter Screens, and the ease of installing them, make them the simply better choice. See how much you can save with our PreVent ROI Calculator.